Carolyn Curtis-Magri's complex and painstaking drawing process reflects the work of crime fiction and forensic science that are her inspiration. She has developed a practice that incorporates elements of criminal investigation with the minutiae of life 'inside'. Her paintings, sculptures and installations draw on Portico Library visitor Thomas De Quincey's 1827 'On Murder Considered as one of the Fine Arts' and her own observations of imagery including x-rays, polymer chains, scars and fragments of evidence.
Manchester's newest art space, Saul Hay Gallery, is located at Railway Cottage off Castle Street in Castlefield, but brought its roster of collectible UK-based artists to The Portico Library for a month-long guest exhibition in Spring 2017, featuring eight artists including finalists for the John Moores Painting and Carter Preston prizes: Omid Asadi, Paul Bennett, Catherine Harrison, Josie Jenkins, Enzo Marra, Melinda Matyas, Mandy Payne and Jo Taylor.
One of the seminal works of English literature, Paradise Lost and its themes have inspired generations of artists, writers and thinkers. A portrait of its author, John Milton, sits opposite that of William Shakespeare in The Portico Library’s main space and the collection holds a first illustrated copy of the original text. To mark 350 years since its initial publication in 1667, we have invited responses from a group of contemporary female artists, addressing the historical gendered imbalance of depictions of its central stories of Adam & Eve and the Fall from Grace, including Kate Shaw, Chloë Manasseh, Helen Mather and Ilona Kiss. Their works will be shown alongside historic illustrations and associated books from the collection and partner libraries.
Throughout 2016, Salford University lecturer and mixed-media printmaker Tim Isherwood undertook a residency at The Portico Library, considering its systems and procedures, from the cataloguing of its titles to the care and protection of aged publications. Drawing on these observations, he produced a set of new works across a variety of print, design and collaborative processes. These responses will be displayed in the central gallery space alongside library artefacts, a new limited edition print publication and mixed-media pieces with fellow North West artists Katherine Beefheart and John Powell Jones.
Entwined comprised a new body of work by painter Lee Mackay and her daughter, artist and writer Jo Manby, both of whom incorporate elements of the botanical world in their work. The title of the exhibition evokes the idea of plants and flowers growing together, and of the mother and daughter relationship whereby the artists’ connected lives and careers continue to diverge and re-converge. Partly inspired by historic volumes from the library’s collection, including Leo Grindon’s The Shakespeare Flora (2016 marks 400 years since Shakespeare’s death) and Thomas Moore’s nature-printed Ferns of Great Britain & Ireland, Lee and Jo created works in oils, gouache and pencil that convey the flowers’ formal beauty while expanding and abstracting into distinctive new designs.
In September 2016 resident artist Tony Phillips brought the latest stage of his touring exhibition England - Heritage & Contemporary Life back to Manchester in September 2016, comprising etchings, drawings and installations on the theme of England's changing landscape and our relationship to its evolution. Supported by The Zochonis Charitable Trust and referencing the library's collection of historic architectural illustrations, England - Heritage & Contemporary Life was complemented by two free drypoint etching workshops on 23rd September and 14th October where the artist led small groups through his process in hands-on sessions. Tony's work has been shown in many of the UK's leading institutions, including the Victoria & Albert Museum and Tate Britain and features in an accompanying book, published by The Portico Library and available in the shop.
Pippa Gatty’s paintings have been described as revealing a "borderland between the imaginary and the real", their diminutive characters seeming to emerge momentarily from elemental squalls and swells before withdrawing again behind the veil. Where Stan Sandig’s refined, substantial forms are tangibly ‘real’, their dynamic lines point to other planes – dimensions beyond our sight, and remind us of the simmering energy contained within their mineral bodies. The title of Pippa and Stan’s exhibition, PARAMENDER, refers to devices used for fixing parallax, where two lines of sight are not aligned. The artists' two different perspectives were offered here together through their shared interaction with The Portico's collection and space, accompanied by illustrations from the library's books on astronomy, mineralogy and art.
U.S. based Indian photographer Shreepad Joglekar's series Non-Places of Intelligence records military 'Live Fire Villages' - training facilities built in the American wilderness to simulate conflict sites in the Middle East. Intended to help personnel prepare for deployment, these compounds reveal enlightening and at times disturbing information about the strategies and perspectives of the armed forces and the tasks with which they're charged. Although Joglekar’s straightforward documents illuminate through their candour and restraint the significance of these sites’ purpose, it is not primarily a political effect the series generates, but rather a long-view consideration of broader issues around filtering, presentation, and the virtual real. Nonetheless, this exhibition offers extensive scope for debate and engagement with timely and important themes.
In the run-up to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, Prêmio Marcantônio Vilaça award winner Gê Orthof undertook a residency at The Portico and created works responding to its collection and visitors. Enchanted by books and their power to unlock new worlds of potential, Gê transformed the entire gallery space into one extraordinary temporary installation, with cardboard walls and miniature dioramas placing us down among the characters, imaginging their stories unfold.
Inspired by the story of Thompson Vitor, a boy in Brazil whose Mother salvaged old books from the streets, allowing her son to study and pass his college entrance exams, Gê's project used discarded and donated books and a number of allusions to other historic "Thompsons" from the library's collection and elsewhere.
Supported by Manchester School of Art, HOME and Plano Cultural.
A series of paintings responding to The Portico Library collection and exploring the medium of traditionally made gesso, layered and manipulated to evoke associating references of control and chance, aerial grounds and psychological landscapes. Through varying factors such as tension in the canvas, the consistency of the gesso and the speed and temperature at which the work is allowed to “dry-out”, Gunn creates landscapes of cracked areas and accidental nuances, engineered but ultimately beyond the control of the artist. Finally grinding down and polishing the surface by hand to a marble finish, the divisions and spatial outlay in the canvases marry regimented geometry defiantly against the organic, free-roaming fissures tenuously embedded in the surface and spilling over the strict linear divisions, refusing to be contained.
Held in collections alongside David Hockney, Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud and having received awards, commissions and mentorship from Callum Innes, Arts Council England and The European Sovereign Art Fund, Susan's paintings were shown at The Portico for the first time in her native North West, with support by Castlefield Gallery's New Art Spaces.
The Manchester Academy of Fine Arts' 2016 Spring Exhibition at The Portico Library featured works in a range of media by M.A.F.A members plus the invited winners of the M.A.F.A. Graduate Awards from the M.M.U. School of Art. Incorporating painting, drawing, sculpture and print, this exhibition provided an opportunity to see new works by members of one of Manchester’s most established arts institutions in an inspiring historic setting.
A retrospective exhibition charting the parallel development of two beloved Manchester artists and founding curators of The Portico's gallery programme, their lives and careers together and influence on each other throughout the late twentieth century. With never-before-seen examples of Albin and Laura Trowski's paintings, drawings and textile designs and items from their family's private collection, this show provided intimate insights into the history and conditions in which they worked.
In February 2016 Syrian paper-sculptor and printmaker Ousama Lazkani brought his exquisite installations and artist books to The Portico Library. Developed in Damascus, Beijing and the UK and incorporating Chinese and Arabic calligraphy, this body of work builds on Lazkani's research into Eastern and Western belief-systems and symbols through depictions of 'The Four Guardians of the Sky' - Dragon, Phoenix, White Tiger and Turtle. A 2016 book of the artist's work published by The Portico accompanied the exhibition.
For centuries, Gothic art and literature have captured the imaginations of millions and influenced every field of culture, from architecture and music to drama, film and fashion. In January 2016 The Portico hosted original props and artefacts from Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy and Tim Burton's Corpse Bride alongside works by contemporary artists Julianne French, Marion Kuit and Jonathan Hargreaves with fascinating rare books and prints from our collection.
Jenny Eden exhibits a body of work that investigates the development of contemporary abstract painting in terms of composition and response. Her thoughtful works employ fine-tuned palettes and painstaking processes to draw the viewer in, inviting and rewarding sustained consideration. In Jenny's paintings, illusion and allusion within and beyond the frame offer multi-faceted, layered relationships with colour, content and form, as each aspect of composition and performance is revealed.
Award-winning contemporary artist Helen Wheeler creates fragile, functionless objects, frozen in a state of imminent change or collapse, which explore the relationships between mortality, the body and science. Helen won the 2013 NADFAS North West Bursary Award for Fine Art and was also the recipient of the Leonard James Little Fine Art Prize. Since then, she has continued her studies at Manchester School of Art where she is currently reading for an MFA in Fine Art.
An exhibition profiling the three pioneering Literary Prizes hosted by the Portico - The Portico Prize for Literature, The Portico Prize for Young Writers and The Portico Poetry Prize.